One of the most underappreciated benefits of disc golf is accessibility. Not only are most courses free (or close to it), you can play pretty much whenever you want. Need a disc golf fix? Just show up and tee off. When you can get as much as you want of a game that brings you so much pleasure, it’s a beautiful thing.
Until, rather suddenly, you can’t.
Every course near me is closed right now. I’m not exaggerating when I say I find it jarring, and my guess is plenty of disc golfers in similar situations feel the same. So what can we do about it?
The way I see it, we have a choice. We can wait for our courses to re-open, meanwhile denying our ravenous disc golf appetites to the point of starvation, resulting in varying levels of irritability. Or, we can get creative in finding ways to feed our need to throw flying discs at things.
We may miss the casual rounds with our friends and the strangely pleasurable tension of tournament golf, but anything that even vaguely approximates our beloved pastime is better than nothing. Right?
I don’t know about you, but I’m gonna survive this (disc golf) crisis, even if I have to subsist on grubs and roots for a while. So to speak. And who knows, maybe I can even find a way to turn lemons into lemonade. Maybe I’ll have a breakthrough in some aspect of my game, or gain a new appreciation for the sport’s prehistoric origins. If you agree that something is better than nothing and like the idea of turning a negative into a positive, here are some ideas.
If you have a basket at home, an obvious option is to work on your putting. I address how to do that in the most productive ways possible in a companion piece, coming soon. But if you don’t have a basket, or still crave a way to really throw some plastic, what then?
This is the recognized term for practicing throws in a wide open field, usually by throwing multiple discs from the same spot in order to refine one’s technique. If the term fieldwork makes it hard to accept this as a worthy substitute for your fun rounds of disc golf, come up with a different term. Then invent a game element to make it more engaging. For instance, give yourself a point for every simulated upshot that lands within 20 feet of the tree you’re aiming at. Keep track, and try to beat your best score.
A few more suggestions and disclaimers on doing fieldwork in these times:
- If you have any near you, artificial turf fields at high schools or colleges work best for fieldwork. It’s much easier to find your discs, and the pre-painted lines help you keep track of distance and whether your throws are really as straight as you think.
- Speaking of finding discs, and especially if you are throwing the discs from your bag, keep track of how many you throw at a time and where they land.
- Play by the rules in your community. If the field is off-limits, don’t use it.
Object Disc Golf
I fell in love with disc golf on the third hole of my first round ever, after my drive flew exactly as I envisioned. It was an anhyzer line that flattened at just the right time, and it occurred on an object course on the campus of UC Santa Cruz, with targets consisting of trees, light poles, a fire hydrant, and a trash can. About half the holes featured the more official 4 x 4 posts painted green. I was hooked on disc golf the second I saw that disc heading straight for the 4 x 4 post — before I even knew baskets existed. I didn’t learn about DeLaveaga – only 10 minutes away – for more than a year! I share this fond memory so you’ll know you can trust me on this: Object golf provides a robust disc golf experience.
If your disc golf courses are closed but you still have wide open spaces at your disposal, object golf with golf discs will scratch that itch. It will feed the need. As a bonus, you will get to experience the separate exhilaration of course design. Simply pick a good place to tee off on hole 1, and then select an object in the distance to serve as your first target. Try to incorporate some natural obstacles to add to the challenge. When that hole is complete, design and play another, and another.
DeLaveaga in Santa Cruz started as an object course. Note the post in the background serving as the target for iconic hole 27 (then Hole 3), AKA Top of the World. Photo by Jeff Rockwell.
You may find reasons to refine and modify your course over time, due to issues relating to safety, or difficulty finding discs, or just playability. Once things are set, the experience will become even more like what you’re used to as you strive to top your best score on your new, self-designed course.
A few more suggestions and disclaimers on playing object disc golf in these times:
- Think safety first. Don’t throw into blind areas where other people might be, and steer well clear of anyone who might be in harm’s way. We all know how far discs can fly, skip, and roll off the intended flight path.
- Depending on the area where you’re designing your course, you may want to use back-up discs until you identify places where discs might get lost.
- Similarly, consider using a putter that isn’t your favorite as it may get dinged up when you putt into solid objects.
- Obey your community’s current rules. If the place is closed, stay out. And don’t invite friends to join you no matter how awesome your new course is. Household members only. Wait until the pandemic coast is clear to share your new gem.
If you don’t have an open space available that is large or isolated enough to accommodate the speed and distance of golf discs, there is another way to play object golf. Consider stepping back in time to the earliest days of our sport, when the packaging on Wham-O Frisbees encouraged people to “Play Catch, Invent Games.”
As Frisbee enthusiasts everywhere strove to answer this call to action, many of them, in different places and at different times, seized upon the idea of playing golf with their Frisbees. They played in pretty much the same way described in the ‘Object Golf’ section above. (For more on the origins of disc golf, check out my book, The Disc Golf Revolution.)
Bob and Betty Branlund discovered Frisbee golf in the 1970’s, using lid-style discs and trees as targets- and (despite this photo with a basket) they still play that way only. Photo by Jack Trageser.
If you can get your hands on a regular ‘ol Frisbee, pretty much anywhere outdoors can serve as a course. Just be mindful of other people’s property and head off on an urban/suburban Frisbee golf adventure. The slower speed of lid-style flying discs may even help you gain a new understanding of how to shape your shots.
Regardless of how you do it – provided you’re not breaking rules, noses, or windows, or putting yourself at risk – get out there and toss a disc. Huck some plastic. Feed that need enough to help you get through these crazy times, and before you know it the all-you-can-eat disc golf buffet will be open once again.